I’ve been home from Europe since mid-July and while I am still processing all I saw and did—not to mention, detoxing from everything I ate and drank—I couldn’t wait a second longer to tell you all about one of our first stops on our 11-night cruise: the charming waterfront towns of the Amalfi Coast.
I’ve been to Italy a half a dozen times, but Positano has always been my Italian Holy Grail. And when my Travel Mindset asked me if I’d do a day trip with Viator while in Italy to write about it, I didn’t need any convincing. It was the opposite of saving the best for last, as the Amalfi Coast was undoubtedly one of my favorite parts of our three-week trip to Europe.
I blame Diane Lane for first introducing me to the beauty of Positano; after all, she sipped limoncello from a seaside cafe there in her 2003 hit, Under the Tuscan Sun. But she certainly wasn’t the last. When I was in Naples a few years ago, I desperately tried to get down there, but I was on a work agenda that allowed for zero free time. Last year on the ship, we went to Florence due to proximity to our Livorno port, but once again, I was hoping for Amalfi. However, this time? I was thrilled to discover it was only a half-hour drive from our port of Sorrento. But how to get there when we didn’t have a car and were on a limited timeframe? was the problem.
Luckily, Viator has many such day trips that allow for a tight cruise docking schedule. We opted for a private day tour of the Amalfi Coast without a guide, as it would enable us a bit of flexibility. Our driver, Gianni, arrived punctually—actually, he was there early, as were we—and as we’d already tooled around Sorrento on our own a bit, we made straight for Positano, so as to not waste a moment.
En route, Gianni began told us all about the area in broken, but charming Italian. He kept saying embarrassingly, “my English is no good,” but we understood him perfectly, and the fact that he wasn’t even meant to be our guide, just a driver, and took on that role anyway was endearing.
There are plenty of cliffside pull-outs where you can park a car and admire the view, and Gianni stopped at each one, offering to take our photos.
We couldn’t believe the views—each stop one-upped the last—and then we arrived at the outskirts of Positano.
It took no time to see what everyone had raved about. The red roofs, the sprays of bougainvillea, the way the town cascaded down the mountain—I loved every bit of what I was seeing.
But before we’d set out to explore, there was something more important to do first: eat lunch.
Lunch became a two-hour endeavor as Gianni took us to Da Contanstino, a family-owned restaurant where we ate an Italian feast for 25 euro apiece (not included in the price of the tour).
I even helped to make the bruschetta. And man, was it GOOD, too.
These were the experiences we craved in Italy, the peek at local life away from the maddening crowds. And the food was perhaps the best meal we had the entire time we were in Europe: unlimited house wine, a Caprese salad, a trio of pasta, orange cake and, of course, limoncello to finish the culinary journey.
Oh, and did I mention the views? Gianni had called ahead and scored us a prime table right by the window.
They may carbo-load on the regular, but Italians take a “digestive walk” after filling their bellies with so much bread and pasta, so we decided to do the same. Gianni drove us to the heart of the town and let us out at the entrance to the pedestrian walkway. We climbed down narrow cobblestone alleys, peeked in local shops, then eventually found ourselves at Positano’s base, where everyone seemed to have the same idea we did: beach time.
We didn’t have much time to stop and work on our tans—we were at the mercy of the ship’s schedule after all—but we took our pictures, sat for a moment to take in the frenetic energy that surrounded us, and made our way back up to find Gianni. We had half an hour of twisty, windy coastal road ahead of us to the delightful town of Amalfi.
Amalfi may have been smaller than Positano, but I think I liked it even more, if that’s possible. We barely had an hour here, but we peeked inside the Amalfi Cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo. It’s so easy to get churched out in Italy, but this was one of the prettier ones we saw and is definitely worth a gander (3 euros to get in).
Then, as to not go a day without our gelato fix, we tried the limon per Gianni’s rec and devoured it out by the Fountain of Sant’Andrea.
If we’d had more time, Gianni also would have taken us higher up into the mountain to the town of Ravello, but we were already pushing it time-wise as it was, so we turned around and drove the hour and change back to Sorrento, where our ship awaited us. There’s only one real way to venture down the Amalfi Coast, so we did an out-and-back, but we were all happy to be see that view twice so no one minded in the slightest.
We made it back to the ship with 15 minutes to spare and gave Gianni a big squeeze, for he’d already made our vacation and it was only day three. Next time, though, we might not let him leave without taking us home with him.